JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

As city leaders begin debating how much Jacksonville residents are going to pay in property taxes next year, thousands have yet to pay what they already owe.

The city, which is trying to to find every bit of revenue it can to avoid a second tax increase in as many years, is trying to collect $60 million in unpaid taxes on 37,000 pieces of property.

Most of the unpaid taxes are for small amounts, such as a $1,900 bill on a house on the Southside where the owner died; even a $28 bill for a 10-foot strip of land near Regency Square.

There are a few large amounts due, such as $11,000 in unpaid taxes owned on land near the Avenues Mall.

When the property owner doesn't pay, the tax collector sells those bills to investors in a tax certificate sale.  If the bill is remains unpaid after several years, the investor is be awarded ownership of the property.

When a list of delinquent property tax bills was published in legal notices in the Financial News and Daily Record last week, $23 million was paid by homeowners within the next few days. Investors paid $32 million more to buy tax certificates.

"The vast majority of those taxes have been paid to the county either by the homeowner or through an investor as a purchase of a tax certificate," said Sherry Hall, chief assistant tax collector for Duval County.

A property owner can buy the tax certificate back, but must pay interest.  So the investors made money even if they never take possession of the property.

As of Wednesday, $3.5 million of unpaid taxes remain.  The next tax certificate sale is at the end of the month and anyone can bid on them by visiting DuvalTaxSale.com.